Grisly – The Spectral Wars Review

Band: Grisly
Album: The Spectral Wars
Label: Xtreem Music
Genre: Death/Sludge Metal
Country: Sweden
Release Date: September 12, 2018

Spending several weeks with The Spectral Wars on repeat left me beaten and bruised, hacking rust from my lungs while trying to crawl out a haunted no-man’s land before something wrapped itself around my legs and dragged me back, haunting me in ways I would find utterly conflicting when it came time to write this review. Like the poor victims of the tentacled subjects of the album, I was torn in many directions at once, and so was my final impression of this debut effort hailing from Scandinavia. So, grab your regulation-issued helmet and holy water, things are going to get weird.

Sweden’s newest power-trio, Grisly, amalgamates past and present band members of Paganizer—Dennis Blomberg and Rogga Johansson respectively—and new-to-the-scene drummer Henke Lundgren. Three-piece metal outfits are certainly not encountered often, and this organization speaks volumes when the sheer amount of music Grisly puts out at once is experienced. Featuring a level of production and mixing that absolutely booms through anything one might play it through, it is hard to believe The Spectral Wars is a first release. While Grisly perfects their presentation, the musicianship frequently straddles the line between being redundant and head-bangingly great, leaving some portions of the album a haze and others so catchy that they distinguish themselves after few listens.

The Spectral Wars, as its name implies, wages a ghoulish heavy-gain assault on the listener with the only respite given to build effect-laden dread before launching into its salvo of haunted, riff-driven progressions. Lyrical delivery and content serve as a cornerstone for the presentation of the album. Front-man and guitarist Johansson belts slime-laden syllables, weaving images of shelled-out foxholes scattered around cursed gas-filled trenches. Feral poisonous creatures and necromantic squid gods frequently hold the narrative as mortals are left to be victims of venomous fangs and insanity. The setting seems straight from a long-lost Iron Maiden concept that Slugdge managed to get their hands on and is by far one of the strongest aspects of the performance. On stellar performances, emergent drummer Henke Lundgren consistently becomes the star on each of The Spectral Wars’ ten tracks. Showing an affinity for staggered rhythms and internal phrasing, Lundgren adds a level of complexity and nuance that causes the other members to shine while still having his own standout moments sprinkled throughout.

These showcases of talent are, however, marred by inconsistent writing and passages that seem to bleed into one another, making it difficult to differentiate tracks even after several sit-downs with the album. That is not to say there are not several truly enjoyable moments in the little-over-half-hour of music to be had. Particular segments have drawn me back to The Spectral Wars, even after having access to it for several weeks, and have me largely hopeful for the future work of Grisly. Regardless, moments of genius clash with lapses in judgement stemming from repetitive chord progressions and one or two questionable guitar solos.

This dichotomy is the ultimate struggle of The Spectral Wars. Concept and attitude are so beautifully presented in a sonic wall of blast-beats and sludgy riffs, yet it stumbles at key moments, drawing the listener out in all the wrong spots. In some cases, these faults would instantly ruin an album, but these feel more like the growing-pains of a trio looking to add the “power” to their title, more so than any sort of lack of musical awareness. Grisly displays the aptitude and talent in their debut to remedy any faults in future endeavors, and they should be noted by anyone in the need of cathartic breakdowns or eclectic imagery.

Rating: 6.5/10

1. Consumed from Beneath
2. Rot to the Living
3. Parasite Parasite
4. The Casket Eaters
5. Teeth That Rips
6. Bring Out the Horrors
7. Supernatural Warfare
8. Sentenced to Armageddon
9. Into Insanity
10. The Spectral Wars

Total Playing Time: 35:31

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